Glencore said to face UK bribery probe over Congo dealings

Date: May 21, 2018

The UK’s white-collar crime prosecutor is preparing to open a formal bribery investigation into Glencore and its work with Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler and the leader of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Investigators at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) plan to seek formal approval for a full probe into Glencore’s dealings in Congo, said the people, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. Since Glencore is based in Switzerland, the prosecutor would have to show it has jurisdiction because the company’s shares are traded in London.

Congo government spokesperson Lambert Mende said Congo is “absolutely calm” about the matter.

“We are ready to take all the blows and we are ready to fight back,” Mende said by phone Friday. Any final decision on whether to proceed with a formal probe will be up to a committee of SFO senior staff, including interim director, Mark Thompson.

Spokespeople for the SFO, Glencore and Gertler declined to comment.

Glencore shares declined 25.55 pence, or 6.4%, to 372.30 pence at 1:36 p.m. in London, after falling as much as 6.6%. The shares, the biggest decliners Friday on the UK FTSE index, have fallen 2.1% this year.

Gertler and his close friend, DRC President Joseph Kabila, have been implicated in previous British and American bribery investigations. The US imposed sanctions on Gertler in December, saying he’d used his friendship with Kabila to corruptly build his fortune. The SFO has been scrutinizing the men’s relationship with a Kazakh mining company for six years. While Congolese officials have described the sanctions as unjust, Gertler hasn’t commented on them.

US hedge fund manager Och-Ziff Capital Management, which funded some of Gertler’s operations in Congo, admitted in 2016 to having conspired to bribe Congolese officials with the help of an unidentified Israeli businessman. Gertler has denied any wrongdoing and hasn’t been charged. Glencore cut ties with him and bought out his stakes in their joint ventures shortly after the Och-Ziff settlement.

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